When I was asked to write about the Suns at the quarter mark of the season I found myself, much like the team at the end of a game, at a loss. There’s not much you can say about a team who has the franchise’s worst record at this point in the season in the last 30 years and is well on its way to missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Welcome to NBA purgatory or the NBA friend zone if you prefer. A place where teams can spend decades hanging out with the sexy NBA teams but never greeting anywhere near the promised land. It’s where you wind up when you’ve ridden the line between trying to make the playoffs and accepting the inevitable for far too long. The Suns have done their best professional bull rider impression, just trying to hang on for dear life for as long as possible.
This year’s roster is the epitome of that. An odd mix of the the past desire to make the playoffs and the current hope to build through youth. A combination of has been and yet to be NBA talent. Add in a head coach in Earl Watson who is greener than the Celtics’ uniforms and you’ve got a recipe that’s equal parts intriguing and frustrating.
They’re a franchise without an identity playing their veterans like Tyson Chandler, PJ Tucker and Leandro Barbosa like a team trying to vie for 45 or 50 wins — a conclusion less likely than the final season of Game of Thrones taking place in 1980s — while pinning their long term hopes on the development of three guys 20 or younger. Oh, and only one of those three guys, Devin Booker, is seeing any major minutes and even he has taken a step back this year. Sure, his points per game are up but his rebounds, assists, shooting percentage and 3-point shooting percentage are all down per minute.
As a fan It’s tough to understand and that’s before you even get to TJ Warren who was having a transcendent before a mystery head injury that no one seems willing to elaborate on. And how about Brandon Knight whose disappearing act despite earning $14 million a year would impress the likes of Houdini? Or the fact that as a team they the fewest assists and most fouls in the NBA?
Yet again Eric Bledsoe has been a bright spot for the team. First off, he’s stayed healthy and when grading Bled that’s half the battle. He’s also averaging All-Star level stats with 19 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3 steals per game. Unfortunately, when you’re a guard in the west with a losing record it doesn’t matter how many times your statline is compared to the likes of Lebron James and other stars, you’ll be getting a week off in February rather than a trip to New Orleans.
Yep, the first quarter of the 2015-16 season has shown us what previous seasons have. The Suns are in hoops hell between previous glory and future success. The only way out of this no man’s land you ask?
Either playing your young guys come hell or high water in an effort to help them grow, learn and evolve into the future building blocks for the franchise or trading for an established star.
Hopefully one of the two happen in the second quarter of the season because something’s got to give and the fans have done enough of that already the last seven years with nothing in return to show for it.